Monday, January 31, 2011

Another thought about Imagineering

I'll go on with the next installment of creative/innovative thinking ("Give Your Ideas Time to Germinate") in the next few days, but I came across this story which I thought would help explain the concept of imagineering.
The basic idea is this ... when creating a new idea, begin with an old idea ... I don't mean "old" in the sense of outdated ... I mean old in the sense of "prior." Use other ideas as building blocks for a new idea. Find a way to combine technologies to create something new, or maybe find new applications for existing technology (e.g., sometimes medicines designed for one purpose are found to discover other uses, which is how a certain medicine designed to control blood pressure was found to have other uses, but I'm not telling that story).
At Methodist Hospital here in Houston, Dr. E. Brian Butler had a hunch. Dr. Butler is the chairman of radiation oncology at Methodist. His hunch was that the 2-D black-and-white images created from CT scans, X-rays, MRIs and other tests could be combined and layered to create 3-D images. So he asked some gaming engineers if they could help him. He said to them, "I use radiation to kill cancer. I want to figure out where to drop my bombs on the enemy, and where not to. Can you help me figure out how to do that, in a 3-D simulated environment?" "Sure," they said. "You want sound effects?"
Now doctors use video game technology -- including Wii and PlayStation controllers -- to "travel" inside a patient's body and preview the landscape in 3-D before surgery. The images are shown on a 16-by-9-foot screen in a room that Dr. Butler and project co-developer Paul Sovelius dubbed "Plato's Cave."
"When I show my patients a photo of the thyroid gland in a book, there's no real depth of understanding," says Dr. Eugene Alford, an otolaryngologist and facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Methodist. The 3-D images shown in the Cave, however, make more sense to patients. "Fade out the skin, then see the muscles; fade out the muscles, see the arteries and veins of the neck, the windpipe, and how they relate to the thyroid gland," Alford points out. Now, perhaps even cooler yet, they take the 3-D experience to the patient's bedside using the iPad.
Notice how 3-D computer gaming technology combined with the older 2-D medical technology to create something entirely new (and cool!).
It just makes me wonder what new ideas are waiting to be discovered that can help the church do a better job communicating the gospel and making disciples. Some creative mind ought to be able to combine technology and incarnation (or some other combination) to help us find better ways to fulfill the Great Commission. I'm not that smart, but maybe you are.
The source for the story on what's going on at Methodist Hospital is the January, 2011 issue of Continental's flight magazine. There's even a great story on how Memorial Hermann's autism clinic is using iPads (I've just gotta get one of those) to help autistic children learn to organize their thoughts and learn the names of things.

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